I was thinking yesterday about how I admire John Schuerholz and now Frank Wren for their uncanny ability to know when to let a player walk off. It seems that, many many times, they’ve traded or let a player go despite the public outcry, only to see the player’s numbers tank over the next few seasons.
Let’s take a look at some of these players – marvel with me at the masterful mind of Schuerholz.
Johnny Estrada: The Braves traded him away after the 2005 season to let some young upstart named Brian McCann take over the catcher position. Estrada had one season of pre-trade productivity (.302 BA, .328 OBP) before going downhill last season (.278 BA, .296 OBP). He got traded to the Mets this off-season, who traded one of their best young players in order to get Brian Schneider rather than offer Estrada a contract. Now he’s floating on the free-agent market somewhere.
Javy Lopez: Javy was one of the most popular players on the Braves before he left as a free-agent in 2004. The last three years have been described by Lopez as a “nightmare.” He had one season with stats rivaling his numbers as a Brave before having a year and a half of forgettable baseball with Baltimore and playing 18 games for Boston last year. Now he’s on a minor league contract with the Braves hoping to play well enough to be a backup catcher.
Damian Moss: Remember this red-headed southpaw that reminded us all of Tom Glavine? Sure, he wasn’t throwing anything ridiculous, but he did win 12 games in 2003 before being traded and fading into obscurity. Moss was one of the biggest examples of what Tom Glavine’s influence on young left-handers can do. After leaving Glavine’s side, Moss’s ERA effectively doubled.
Ryan Langerhans: Ryan was hardly an All-Star when he was with the Braves, but they seem to have gotten his best years out of him. I liked Ryan personally and hoped he’d develop into a more complete player, but last season he hit .167 in stints with the Braves, Nationals, and Athletics.
Andy Marte: Remember this guy? Once hailed as the savior of the hot corner should Chipper all of a sudden get struck by lightning, Marte was used as bait to get Edgar Renteria from the BoSox. Last year he played in 20 games for Cleveland and hit under .200. Now he may still develop, but the Braves got a lot out of Marte considering the upside he’s shown so far in the big leagues.
Marcus Giles: Marcus played for the Braves for six seasons, batting over .300 twice, receiving MVP votes twice, and playing in an All-Star game. He was not resigned at the end of last year, and went to San Diego, where he batted just .229 with 4 HRs and 39 RBIs. San Diego released him at the end of last year and he’s currently a free agent.
And there are more. Nick Green had his best year in Atlanta before going to Tampa Bay for Jorge Sosa. I suspect we saw Willie Harris’ best last year (though I hate to admit it, I really liked that guy).
Perhaps the best trade of all included Charles Thomas (batted .288 in 83 games with a .368 OBP), and pitching prospects Dan Meyer and Juan Cruz. The Braves got a pitcher named Tim Hudson in return. Thomas batted .109 in 30 games for the A’s the next season and hasn’t played in the majors since. Meyer just came up and pitched in six games for the A’s last season with an 8.82 ERA, and Cruz has bounced around posting mediocre relief numbers for a few teams. Hudson, on the other hand, is doing OK and holding a spot in the Braves’ rotation.
So, let us gather together and wonder at the genius that is Schuerholz. I doubt we’ll see it end now that Wren is GM – Wren was under the wing of the Great One when all these moves were made. He knows how to make the decisions that will make us shake our heads in disbelief in three or four years.
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